Silver nano-particles used to make HIV-resistant super-prophylactic
Canadian scientists claim that silver nano-particles could be used to fashion a super-prophylactic capable of killing the HIV and herpes viruses as well as other STD's.
The National Post reports that scientists from the University of Manitoba have soaked condoms in a solution filled with silver nano-particles, enabling the treated prophylactics to better combat malignant viruses and bacteria.
Silver, like base metal copper, possesses strong anti-microbial properties which led to its attempted use to prevent the spoilage of milk in the early 20th-century, as well as its inclusion as an ingredient in pharmaceutical eye-drops.
The modern usage of tiny nano-particles of silver increases the metal's disinfectant properties and heightens its ability to neutralize pernicious microbes. According to lead author of the study Dr. Xiaojian Yao "at such nanoscale, the extremely small size of silver particles exhibits remarkable, unusual physio-chemical properties and biological activity."
The nano-particles can also be applied to materials such as the polyurethane used to make condoms without altering its consistency or shape.
The precise mechanism which enables silver nano-particles to neutralize viruses remains a unknown however, with scientists speculating that silver ions prevent viruses from adhering to host cells by either sticking to cell receptors or impeding the function of key proteins on the surface of viruses.
Condom makers currently use Nonoxynol-9 as an anti-microbial agent in their products. The use of nano-particle silver would be marked improvement, however, as N-9 can cause genital inflammation and ulceration, thus heightening the risk of disease transmission.